A Night For Celebration

UK DECAY / SEX GANG CHILDREN
A NIGHT FOR CELEBRATION – UK Decay Records and NAKED – Sex Gang Cassette.

It’s not that I want to call Steve Sutherland a festering old hippy or anything, but when he reviewed the so-so Batcave album he tried to allay people’s fears by saying no-one should imagine that if they don’t like this music it’s because they might be too old.
Now while I’d go along with his review of that and “The Whip”, with reservations, I would say that he’s got that wrong.

I’ll just write Methuselah on a postcard and staple it to his dislocated ears.

These Whipcave items show a slight cross-section in poor surroundings. It’s post-punk/Ant Soldiers With Travel music, but including far too much dross. No, what annoys me is the way that this area of music has had far too few supportive writers involved compared to other areas, so that the bias, taken in context, given in reviews, has always been over-critical.The importance of these two bands illustrates my point. Decay were, and Sex Gang are, regarded as more than simple anomalies. Not quite ancient ruins like most post-punk bands, not inane and dayglo bright enough to be pop mildew, they are hamstrung and hung out to dry for sounding shrill, supposedly doom-ridden (never hurt Joy Division!) and looking “silly”!

The Decays and Sex Gangs of this world keep a rebellious streak in their music and lifestyles, accumulate their own lyrical themes and imagery and develop their own music with the original energy of the ‘first’ punk sortie. Slumbering oxen like The Banshees are held up to be acceptable, but are fast being overtaken by a younger generation of bands who don’t wallow. Unfortunately too many people choose a sedate path, happy with what they know, ignoring the jewels and lumping for paste.

Decay’s life was a potent one, but facing a straight line on a graph they called it a day, and this album-length cassette catches their very last performance at the Klub Foot where they promised, “it may be sad, but the best is yet to come.”The whole gig’s here and apart from the disorientating effect that onstage echo has on my tape recorder, it’s a pristine sound. Nice clear vocals, deep twangy bass, striking drumming and flowery, expressive guitar; the Decay hallmarks.

It represents all periods of their career and the exhumed ‘UK Decay’, their first (split) single and ‘Black cat’, their second, sound every bit as exciting as ‘Werewolf’, their final vinyl.

‘Sexual’, ‘Stagestruck’ and ‘Rising From The Dead’ are all powerful, all glowing, ‘barbarian’ and ‘Barbarians’ taut but prickly, ‘Dresden’ (slightly messy) tempts, ‘Unexpected Guest’ tantalises and ‘Testament’, my favourite, rouses like nothing on Earth.

The influences for many of today’s new band are clear enough to see as Decay virtually single-handedly kept the old passion course (fostered by pre-CBS Ants) on line and won the audience’s devotion and blossomed fast.

Sex Gang’s cassette (re-released after twelve months, and re-mixed) was their first item ever and includes some very early performances. Remember they were one of the bands that came in Decay’s shadow and were helped by that band and like cay each of the four departments has a recognisable sound which is always a sing of a band’s quality.

Here it comes over as powerful and distinguished considering it was such an early stage in their existence, and has the added edge of being raw.

All the hits and more basically…’Into The Abyss’, ‘Sense Of Elation’, ‘Kill Machine’, ‘Shout And Scream’, all the ripped up songs throbbing together. Fond memories (!) of the impact that ‘Beasts’ had at those early gigs and a chance to hear three tracks unavailable elsewhere, although two may crop up on the new ‘Sebastianne’.

‘Salvation’, the glistening gladiator, ‘Solider’ brimming with mixed guitar brands and brutish drumming and finally, ‘People With Dirty Faces’ is a real neck-ricker.

How people can stand back and laugh with haughty disdain at such magnificence puzzles me. Maybe you need an urgent heart in place of a pacemaker because this area is the most resounding of all. Basically it’s because people are too old and they’re getting ‘older’ these days when they’re younger!

Sprightly young things should be most able to find the Sex Gang cassette most places but for Decay’s wake try Rough Trade. Try it before the ageing process begins.

(Melody Maker)

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